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Conduct Disorder (CD) is the name given to a mental health condition, which is fairly common in children and adolescence, and which causes defiant behaviour.

Children and adolescents with CD tend to be repeatedly and persistently physically aggressive and/or antisocial, beyond what is expected of their age.

Young people with CD may fight, bully, be cruel to people and animals, destroy other people’s property (possibly including arson), lie and steal, this may range from ‘borrowing’ others’ possessions to shoplifting, forgery, car theft and burglary.

Children with this disorder often lie, are truants, cheat at schoolwork and display callous behaviour. They may misuse tobacco, alcohol and other drugs at an unusually early age and be sexually precocious. Younger children often have a type of CD known as oppositional defiant disorder.

The cause of CDs is unclear, possibly a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors. More boys than girls are diagnosed and increasing numbers as children reach adolescence.

CD is often accompanied by other conditions, such as ADHD, specific learning difficulty, anxiety disorders, depressive or bipolar disorders, and substance misuse. These disorders are the most common reason for children being referred to mental health services.

Before diagnosing, a professional will talk to parents, teachers and others in the child’s life to rule out other potential conditions before diagnosing CD. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the likelihood of treatment working.

Currently, the best treatment for CD is considered to be long-term psychotherapy and behavioural therapy, with the entire family and support network involved.

Around five per cent of pupils are reported as having conduct disorder – although the actual figure may be higher because many are undiagnosed.

Schools employ a variety of strategies when working with these youngsters, including behaviour management, social skills (often through enhanced personal, social and health education [PSHE] input), strategies to improve self-esteem and self-control, and close liaison and involvement with parents or carers. Nevertheless, children diagnosed with CDs often fail at school or college and become socially isolated.

In recent years there has been some criticism around how CD is dealt with in schools.

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